Resistance bands are quite possibly the most cost-effective home fitness equipment available for performing a full-body resistance training workout routine. Not only are they inexpensive, typically ranging from $5 to $20 per band, but they’re also lightweight and small, making them perfect for throwing in a work bag or suitcase when you’re on-the-go. Grab a few bands and put them to use when you’re tight on time, space, or money – here are 10 exercises to try for a full-body routine.
About Resistance Bands
Made of high-quality rubber, resistance bands come in the form of narrow tubes or flat bands. Tube-style resistance bands frequently come with attached handles, making them easier to grasp, while the flat-style resistance bands are easy to tie into loops or around other equipment to change the configuration of the equipment. Both styles come in a variety of resistances, usually designated as “light,” “medium,” and “heavy.” Deciding on flat- or tube-style bands is completely up to the user, but I personally prefer the flat bands, as I find it’s easy to use them in a wider variety of ways.
It can be tricky to know which resistance to use when trying a band exercise. My general rule of thumb is to buy a set of three or more bands, and test each exercise with a moderate-resistance band. If you find it’s too difficult to move through a full range of motion for any exercise, choose a lower-level resistance. If the exercise is extremely easy and you don’t really feel the resistance, move up to a band with greater resistance.
A Different Kind of Workout
The one thing to realize about resistance bands is that using them for strength training is not like using dumbbells, kettlebells, or other weighted equipment. Most strength training equipment has a set resistance load that the exerciser must lift and lower throughout a range of motion. For instance, a 10-pound dumbbell is 10 pounds regardless of whether a person is at the top or bottom of a biceps curl.
Resistance bands are different – they offer variable resistance throughout any given movement. At the “bottom” of a motion, when the resistance band is loosest, the resistance level is low. As a person moves to the apex of an exercise, when the resistance band stretches to capacity, the resistance level grows and becomes more challenging. This variable resistance makes resistance bands particularly nice for beginners, those rehabbing from an injury, or who are learning a new exercise and are perfecting form.
Full-Body Resistance Band Workout
1. Lateral Slides
Work your outer thighs as you perform this lateral slide movement.
- Stand on the center of a resistance band and hold the ends in each hand, pulling the band taut. Bend your knees slightly.
- Step to the right with your right foot about 18 to 24 inches, working against the resistance of the band. Bring your left foot to meet your right foot.
- Continue stepping to the right for 10 steps before switching direction and stepping to the left.
- Perform two sets of 10 steps to each side.
Strengthen your hamstrings and butt with this deadlift exercise.
- Stand on the center of an exercise band with your feet together. Tip forward at the hips, pressing your buttocks backward slightly as you lean your torso forward, stopping when your torso is approximately parallel to the ground.
- Grasp the ends of the resistance band in each hand, pulling the band taut in front of your shins. From this position, tighten your hamstrings and butt, using them to “pull” yourself back to standing. As you do this, allow your hands to pull the band taut up the front of your legs, ending in front of your thighs.
- Reverse the movement and return to start. Perform two sets of 15 repetitions.
3. Leg Extension
Isolate your quadriceps with this leg extension exercise.
- Choose a chair or a bench with legs, and tie a resistance band around one of the front legs, creating a small loop.
- Sit on the edge of the chair or bench, one foot flat on the floor, and the other slipped through the resistance band loop, your knee bent and your foot suspended off the floor.
- Keeping your thigh steady, extend your lower leg, pressing against the resistance of the band until your leg is straight.
- Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
- Perform 15 repetitions on one side before switching sides. Perform two sets.
4. Leg Curl
Tone up your hamstrings with the resistance band hamstring curl.
- Start on your hands and knees on the floor, looping the resistance band around the bottom of one of your feet and pulling the ends forward so that they’re gripped in each hand, under your shoulders. At this point, all four of your appendages are still in contact with the ground.
- Press the leg supporting the resistance band straight backward until it’s fully extended, stretching the resistance band.
- Keeping your thigh fixed, bend your knee toward your butt, allowing the resistance band to loosen slightly. Reverse the movement and press your leg straight against the band’s resistance.
- Perform 15 repetitions before switching sides. Perform two sets.
5. Quadruped Hip Extension
Target your butt with the quadruped hip extension.
- Start on your hands and knees, looping the resistance band around the bottom of one foot, pulling the ends forward so that you’re holding them in each hand under your shoulders.
- With the leg supporting the resistance band, lift your knee from the ground and flex your hip, bringing it forward toward your hands. Your knee, hip, and ankle should all be flexed.
- Keeping your knee and ankle flexed, extend your hip, pressing the bottom of your foot toward the ceiling. When your hip is fully extended, hold the position for one second, then reverse the movement and return to start.
- Perform 15 repetitions before switching sides. Perform three sets.
6. Seated Row
Work your back with the seated row.
- Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you, your upper body sitting tall.
- Loop the resistance band around the bottom of your feet with the ends of the band lying next to your legs.
- Grab the bands at about the level of your knee, holding them taut with your arms straight.
- Pull the band with both hands directly back toward your body, squeezing your shoulder blades and bending your elbows.
- When your hands meet your torso, reverse the movement and return to start.
- Perform 15 repetitions and two sets.
7. Shoulder Press
For this shoulder press exercise, you may need to choose a band that’s longer or has lighter resistance because of the length to which you stretch it.
- Stand on the center of a resistance band, your feet together, holding the ends of the band in each hand.
- Pull your hands up to approximately ear-height, your elbows pointing out to the sides, your palms facing forward. In this position, the resistance band should be behind your shoulders.
- Press your arms straight up over your head, extending your elbows, stretching the band tight. When your arms are fully extended, reverse the movement and return to start.
- Perform 12 to 15 repetitions and two sets.
8. Biceps Curls
Work on the muscle tone of your biceps with this simple biceps curl exercise.
- Stand on the center of a resistance band and hold the ends of the band in each hand so that the band is taut. Rotate your wrists inward so your palms are facing each other. Your arms should be right at your sides.
- Bend your elbows and pull your hands straight up to your shoulders, stretching the band tight, your upper arms remaining close to your sides.
- Reverse the movement and return to start.
- Perform 15 repetitions and two sets.
9. Triceps Extension
Work the group of muscles running along the back of your arm between your shoulder and elbow with this triceps overhead extension.
- Grasp the band with your right hand approximately six inches from the end of the band so that the longer side is closer to your body when your palm faces backward.
- Extend your right arm up over your head so that the long side of the band is dangling behind your back.
- Bend your right elbow, dropping your right hand behind your head to approximately neck-height.
- Reach behind your body with your left hand and grasp the long end of the resistance band at your mid-back. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your left hand fixed and your right elbow close to your ear, extend your right hand directly above your head, pulling the band taut.
- Reverse the movement, lowering your hand back behind your head.
- Perform 12 repetitions on one side before switching sides. Perform two sets.
10. Lateral Raise
Work your shoulders independently with the lateral shoulder raise.
- Step on the resistance band with your left foot so that approximately six inches of band extends to the left of your foot.
- Grab the opposite end of the resistance band with your right hand, your palm facing backward, your hand directly in front of your right thigh. Step backward with your right foot for support, allowing both knees to slightly bend.
- From this position, keeping your arm completely straight, extend your right arm directly out to the side until your right arm is parallel to the ground.
- Reverse the movement and lower your hand back to your thigh.
- Perform 12 repetitions to each side. Perform two sets.
The thing I love the most about resistance bands is how easy they are to take with you. I carry one in my purse at all times, just in case I get a couple free minutes to fit in an extra fitness routine during the day. They’re also the perfect solution for people who travel frequently for work, or for those who want to continue to exercise while on vacation. A full set of bands usually costs less than $35 (e.g. Black Mountain Resistance Band Set), weighs less than a pound, and can be rolled up to fit in small spaces.
Have you done a resistance band workout? Do you have any favorite routines?